I didn’t set out with the intention of making jewellery until I was in the middle of making my first piece.
It was a twisted copper and brass ring that I later gave to my sister, made in my secondary school metal work class. I don’t know why our teacher chose jewellery instead of the usual kitchen utensils but I seemed to have a flare for it, as I usually did when it came to creative tasks. In no time at all I was progressing on to silver wire. Something about the silver gripped me. Maybe it brought back childhood memories of polishing the old family silver collection; I could never wait for the tarnish to appear on my Dad’s old tankards, so I could make them shine again. Whatever it was, it never left me. During that school term I made 2 rings, that first one for my sister, and a second silver version for my Dad. The following term, we moved on to woodwork and my jewellery making career was put on hold.
After my GCSEs I took an Art and Design Course at College. It was a very general art practice course but I enjoyed it. I also enjoyed the common room with its tomato cuppa soup, juke box, and smokers’ corner but even with the lure of a broadened social life and creative outlet, I itched to get out into the world after just one year. I got a job in a small double glazing company making the fake stained glass units that used to be a part of every conservatory. This was about as creative a job as I could find and it kept me busy. Around this time I found a night course for jewellery-making. Tuesday evenings became the highpoint of my week. I was the youngest person on the course by about 50 years. We learnt bits from each other as well as from the teacher. I learned basic soldering/braising and piercing and polishing skills. The jewellery bug had well and truly bitten. Every birthday or Christmas became an opportunity to request a new tool and no car-boot sale went by without a search for a much-needed second hand tool.
At age 18, still living at home and without a workbench, I used the top edge of a pine chest of drawers in my bedroom to make my creations in silver. When night school finished I carried on muddling through, teaching myself as best I could in my spare time. There were no YouTube videos, but books were available for beginners. My knowledge was limited but I carried on making presents for family members who seemed to be grateful enough.
Fast forward to a short cheffing career, a life-changing romance which resulted in one new husband, a move from the south of England to the northwest of Ireland, all topped off with two beautiful sprogs, I was now 24 and a stay-at-home Mum. I had an eye on establishing a self-employed career from home. I flipped a few artistic ideas around in my head, including greeting card-making and photography, but the magpie in me wanted the shiny stuff in my life.
I needed to upskill, big time. The search for learning was on. I had it all ahead of me …